The England WAGs already seem to have their towels on some of the best sun loungers in Qatar, contributing to the sense that this World Cup would be a particularly bad one to miss.
Partners of English and French players have booked in at Banana Island, a luxury spot 25 minutes by boat from the Doha seafront, according to the place’s sales director. Those with children have their eyes on the biggest chalets which sleep five. Benefits include a helipad, should they prefer that to the motor launch, with white leather seats, complimentary dates and cold flannels.
Those £6,000 a night chalets, built on stilts which sit in the Arabian Sea, won’t offer total escape from hoi polloi.
Anyone can catch the boat and pay £100 to enjoy the resort’s pool and beach. But with a cinema, a surf pool with a wave machine and scuba diving courses, it all rather contributes to the sense that England’s partners are well ahead of the rest when it comes to the accommodation quest for Group B.
Gareth Southgate’s players have bagged arguably the best base of the lot, escaping the traffic and high rises of Doha for the cool class of a hotel converted from former pearl fishermen’s chalets, with thick heat-resistant walls, in the traditional souk district at Al Wakra, upcoast from Doha.
There will be no pictures in the newspapers of Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and Co on an inflatable unicorn in this place. They’ve never installed a swimming pool there because they want to preserve its status as a ‘heritage property’ — a remnant of the days just 70 years ago, before their lucrative oil and liquefied petroleum gas when Qatar was just a small stretch of sand on the edge of the Arabian Sea.
But the five-star Tivoli hotel, built on the beach, will keep it real for Southgate’s players. They will wake to see the ancient wooden beams of the one-time cottages over their head and watch camels go by if they decide to eat at the array of seafront restaurants which are a few minutes’ walk from their rooms.
The old souk market adjoins the hotel with a fleet of gold buggies on hand to take in the gold and bird markets. Southgate will be pleased to know that hotel staff do the driving.
The hotel will be closed from the end of October to prepare to welcome the team, at which stage there will no longer be a separate dining area for those smoking a shisha pipe. Intricate work to clean the tile mosaic at the communal fountain where the players can lounge was seen by Sportsmail last week. The most expensive rooms here usually cost £250 a night.
This felt a lot less last-minute than the scene around Wales’ newly completed team hotel in the skyrise West Bay, which is not yet open and located in the middle of little less than a building site.
The Delta City Centre hotel has been fully furnished and is a short half-hour drive east from the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium where Wales have the advantage of playing all their group games.
But unless there is a rapid conclusion to building work, the players will be greeted by diggers, dug-up roads and pavements, as they take up residence in the glass skyscraper. Sportsmail last week found a makeshift security hut at the centre of a building site between the hotel and the seafront Corniche, with a lone employee there.
The USA team, also in England’s group, have the most upmarket residence — the Marsa Malaz Kempinski — though they will have to share that with residents. It’s too big to close the entire place down for them.
The Americans can draw on the psychological boost of knowing that they are playing on the green, green grass of home. The turf for all of the World Cup stadiums has origins in the state of Georgia.
‘The American grass seed gives you a more robust playing surface,’ David Graham from Aspire Turf, who are in charge of the Qatar 2022 pitches, told ESPN. ‘With the climate and conditions in Qatar, the playing surface wouldn’t hold together without the right grass seed.’
The existing playing surfaces were removed two weeks ago and the new seed laid, with water pumped through pipes laid under pitches around the clock to ensure optimal growing temperature.
The playing temperatures are unlikely to be a problem because of the decision to push the tournament back to November, which generally brings grey skies, sunny periods and top temperatures of around 23°C (73°F).
But sophisticated air-conditioning systems, planned at a time when it seemed the tournament would be staged in searing June heat, are also in place to ensure that the on-field temperatures are regulated for the players.
Underground sensors measuring heat and humidity will allow this degree of control, along with pitchside vents calibrated to blow out blasts of air which players arriving to take throw-ins will not feel. Vents at seat level will also ensure that supporters are able to watch games at 21-22°C.
Managers may feel that their media duties are slightly less strenuous given that for the first time, all pre-match press conferences will be in the same place, on the upmarket Pearl resort to the north of central Doha.
Some players will make their feelings known about the human rights abuses which have gone into all of this. The human cost will always taint the competition that is about to unfold.
It is impossible to consider the feats of architecture and engineering which have gone into building the stadiums and hotels without remembering the immigrants who toiled to build them and the roads, bridges and concourses in broiling heat, before returning to filthy, cold accommodation blocks. Many died.
Most workers will have disappeared, on state orders, for the duration of the tournament, though gardeners and cleaning staff are expected to stay.
The sight of them laying pavements and watering grass on the Corniche in the scorching late afternoon heat, two weeks back, was a reminder of the toil.
The Qataris are prickly about this. At a hastily organised press conference to mark the Lusail Stadium’s launch, they insisted their country had been misrepresented and said there had been no human rights problem.
The notoriously opaque Ministry of the Interior is not used to having to answer questions about anything unpleasant. When we tried to quiz officials at the press conference about issues of security, they told us they had not heard what we had asked but as we tried to re-state the question, the next one was being fielded.
On Banana Island, where the cinema and bowling alley were being prepared for the WAGs last week, no one will be any the wiser about the true pain the immigrant workers have been through.